Tim could think of 677 places he would rather be right now, and those were just the ones he had thought of in the last twenty minutes.
He forced a smile as Mrs Schrijnemaker prattled on about her husband’s recent business success and wondered how on earth he managed to get fooled into this every damn year. Gotham Natural History Museum’s annual fundraising shindig was the social event of the fall season and last year Tim spent all of November and December thinking up excuses not to go again this year and yet here he was, one year later and stuck in the same unbearable mixture of polite nonsense and badly hidden insults. The only difference was that this year you got to experience 5 hours of excruciating boredom in a mask. Tim would love to meet whatever ditzy trophy wife who had gotten onto the board through the generous contribution of her aging husband had come up with that idea. A masquerade. In Gotham. The only saving grace was that the idea was so stupid that it nearly guaranteed that a villain would show up, and then they could cut the night short.
“You know,” Mrs Schrijnemaker cooed, eyes sharp with the shrewdness of the truly wealthy, “your family should really consider changing your supplier. If a box or container breaks all the merchandise inside could be damaged or lost. Good packaging cannot be overestimated.”
Tim made a polite noise of agreement. He would rather be in the dumpster behind Al’s 24 hour diner than here. 678. He would rather be at a frat party at Gotham U than here right now, and he would rather be fighting a horde of Ra’s annoying subordinates than be at a frat party. 679. 680.
“Tim!” he blinked and refocused his gaze on-
“Richard,” Tim greeted smoothly. Thank god. The old Robin code of conduct still held true. Rule #4: A robin shall never leave another Robin to their fate at a social event.
“I’m terribly sorry Miss,” Dick said to Mrs Schrijnemaker. His smile was charming enough that she didn’t notice that he probably called her Miss because he had forgotten who she was. “I’m afraid that I must steal my brother away from you.”
“Oh, certainly,” Mrs Schrijnemaker had quite lost the glint of steel in her gaze, growing flustered as Dick gave a jointy little bow and a wink while he gripped Tim’s arm in a steely grip.
“Great,” Dick chirped, “come along Timothy.”
Tim let himself get half-steered, half-dragged across the ballroom, stealing another glass of champagne from a waiter along the way. They headed to the nook over by the southeast corner, a tried and true hiding spot, where Dick rounded on him. His big brother had a look in his eyes that usually meant he’d seen something truly traumatic -like that time Bruce taught them the Charleston -but was commonplace during nights like these.
“Thanks for that,” Tim said, “I think I might’ve perished from intellectual starvation if I was left there much longer.”
“I can’t believe I got tricked into this again,” Dick whispered, “every damn year.” He slipped around Tim and skilfully nabbed a tray of mini sandwiches from a passing waiter.
“How did you get roped into it?” Tim asked.
“He schaid,” Dick began, speaking through a sandwich. He swallowed. “He said that Khloe Kardashian would be here.”
“Look, I know ok? I don’t need you to shame me for falling for the same lie twice.”
“Three times, Dick. You’re forgetting Aspen.”
Dick’s expression soured.
“Oh my god I had forgotten about Aspen. I am so putting fish in Bruce’s bed-”
“I’ll help,” Tim said drily, glaring out at the sea of masked people. He could almost taste the fake laughter and supressed dislike on the air.
“How did he make you go anyway?” Dick asked, picking through the tray.
“I’m not even sure.”
They stood in companionable silence for a glorious moment, content to hide even though both of them were experienced enough to know that too soon they would be found by some glitzy socialite with more plastic under their skin than personality.
Tim glanced around the room, trying to scope out which vulture might be swooping down to feast on their flesh. As far as he could tell, there were no villains in attendance yet. Maybe they wouldn’t show up at all. And wouldn’t that be ironic? The one time he would welcome a Poison Ivy appearance with glee, and she stays home to water her plants. He studied a group of sweaty middle-aged men in various stages of corpulence, all dressed in nearly identical tuxedos and black masks. Looks like they had invited the Historical Construction Society; this was shaping up to be an extraordinarily dull night. His eyes slid to the left.
Or maybe not.
“Is that Jason?”
“What?” Dick’s head snapped up and followed his gaze. “Where?”
“By the Historical Contruction Society.”
“They’re called something long and pretentious, but they always talk about things like which nails were most commonly used for building houses in the 17th century”
“Oh, the Screw Screwing Club.”
Tim filed that name away for further use. Dick always was good at coming up with a good pun.
“To the left,” Tim instructed, “moving towards the bar.”
“That is Jason. What is he doing here?”
“Maybe he’s going to rob us?”
“Oh please let that be it,” Dick said, munching down another sandwich without taking his eyes off their brother, who was weaving through the throng without issue. That wasn’t unexpected, since no one knew who he was even without having half his face covered.
“I’m texting him to come over here,” Tim said, already tapping away on his phone.
“Ask if he brought his guns”
“Mrs Sanderson has groped me five times already. She deserves to be robbed.”
“Ladies and gentlemen: Batman.”
“’m not Batman anymore.” Dick groused, poking at a sad little sandwich with tuna filling.
“He’s on his way.”
They retreated further into the nook to where they were partially hidden behind a curtain in an effort to stay unnoticed a bit longer.
“Who is here tonight anyway?” Tim asked, eyeing a lonely olive that was rolling around on the tray.
“Hell if I know,” Dick replied, “I was shanghaied into this last minute. Through deceit and lies.”
“If he couldn’t get out of it. I haven’t seen him.”
“He’s probably hiding,” Tim said, “he’s still small enough to fit in the vents.” Lucky bastard.
“I wish I was still small enough to fit in the vents,” Dick sighed longingly.
“I’m sure Zatanna can resize your body to fit your intellect,” said Jason’s gravelly voice from the other side of the curtain. Dick made an indignant noise.
“Get in here.” There was a brief struggle between Dick, Jason, and the Curtain and then they were all snugly shoehorned into the small alcove.
“Hey.” Tim said conversationally, giving in and picking up the lonely olive.
“Fancy meeting you here,” Jason deadpanned.
“Why are you here, Jason?” Tim asked, popping the olive into his mouth.
“I’m supporting natural history.”
“Please tell me you’re up to something,” Dick said, shifting to peek out from behind the curtain. “I think Mrs Sanderson is actively looking for me now.”
“’fraid not,” Jason said, “I was blackmailed.”
Tim thought this over as he slowly chewed the olive. If Bruce had enlisted Jason, he must be really worried about a villainous attack. Fantastic. Maybe they would get out of here before Dick had to resort to jumping out a fifteenth-floor window to avoid Mrs Sanderson, like he did two years ago. That one had been hard to explain to the press.
“I thought you didn’t like olives,” Jason said, eyeing him suspiciously.
“I don’t,” Tim replied, “and I don’t have a napkin to spit it out in.”
“So.” Tim replied and kept chewing.
“Jeez Tim, you look like a real boy, but then…” Jason shook his head.
“Enough about the olives,” Dick hissed, “Jason, you have to help us run interference.”
“Nah. Sucks to be you but that’s not my problem.”
Maybe Tim could get away with spitting the olive out into the curtain?
“Well, something has to happen,” Dick said urgently, “did Bruce think there would be an attack?”
“Well someone needs to do something,” Dick said lowly, “I can’t take a one-hour lecture about 15th century door frames right now.”
“The Ancient Architecture Assholes are here?” Jason asked with distaste.
Tim finally gave in and swallowed the olive, grimacing as it went down.
“And the Palatetologists,” he told them, trying to drown out the taste of olive with champagne. It did not work.
“Who?” Dick frowned.
“You mean Palaeontologists?” Jason questioned.
“That’s what I call those guys who keep talking about the mouth feel of caviar.”
“The smack-talkers,” Dick said knowingly.
“The culinary cunts,” Jason supplied.
“Yeah. Those. They’re here too, and at least one of them recently tried pitahaya.”
“Well, sounds like you both have a lot of people to chat with, and I woudn’t want to keep you,” Jason said, grinning maliciously.
“If you leave us to our fate, I’ll-” Dick started.
“We could do something.” Tim interrupted, suddenly inspired. Of course! With Jason here, it would be a piece of cake.
“What?” Dick turned to him.
“We could do something to make the night more bearable. Jason will help.”
“No I won’t,” Jason protested, crossing his arms.
“You’d get to fuck with rich people,” Tim told him.
Jason’s eye twitched, like his mind was at war with itself. In the end, his hatred of rich people won out over his need to be contrary.
“Fine. What’re you thinking?”
Tim considered their options.
“We can’t do something dangerous, or anything that can be traced back to us, because Bruce would have our heads. But if we cause enough trouble, he might decide that we’re more of a liability than an asset and then-” Tim smiled sharply “he won’t invite us next year.”
Dick made a noise that Tim had only ever heard him make when eating s’mores. Utter delight.
“So what are we doing exactly?” Jason asked, leaning in.
“Ok,” Tim said in a low voice, “hear me out…”
Phase One: Triple Threat.
“Our first step,” Tim said, “should be to cause as much disruption as possible without alerting Bruce. That means social guerrilla warfare. This room is a minefield. All we need to do is purposefully take a wrong step.”
Tim watched from the corner of his eye as Dick sidled up to a gaggle of middle-aged business wives. The group turned towards the oldest Wayne heir like a flower towards the sun. Good. Now, for his part. He took a deep breath and stepped forward into the direct line of sight of one of the Screw Screwers. The man, a portly fellow in his fifties, honed in on Tim like a heatseeking missile. Excellent.
“Is that you, mister Wayne?”
“I’m afraid so,” Tim said, switching on the polite facial expression his mother had chiselled into him as a child, “though I fear the mask is hindering me from identifying you, mister…?”
“Dennis,” Mr Screw- uh Dennis filled in for him. Figures this guy would have a first name for a surname.
“Mr Dennis, of course!” Tim said good-naturedly. “How are you?”
“Oh quite well, young man, quite well,” Dennis replied and Tim had a feeling he was itching to get through the polite greetings so he could start talking about buildings. He also had a sneaking suspicion that this was that one club member who said everything twice. “And you?”
“I am doing very well, thank you.”
“Good to hear, good to hear. Say, have you heard about the reconstruction of the old windmill?”
Windmills. God rest Tim’s fragile psyche.
“Why I did hear about that. One of your colleagues mentioned it. Fascinating project.”
“Oh, did they now, did they now?” Dennis said absently. “Yes it is fascinating, they’re using blueprints from the original-”
Tim forced himself to look interested as Dennis Two-Times droned on about the original wood and ironworks.
He’d rather be dealing with Bart when he hadn’t eaten for four hours. 681.
“-and of course they’re using wooden bolts, as was the custom during the 1760’s-”
“Wooden?” Tim interrupted. Dennis looked a bit shocked, maybe he wasn’t used to people showing signs of intelligent life during his monologues. “Your good friend said they would be using steel.”
“What?” Dennis squawked. “No, you must have misheard. That would be completely inaccurate for that time period.”
“No, no,” Tim said, taking secret pleasure in mimicking Dennis’ speaking pattern, “I’m quite sure. Steel bolts and maple wood. That’s what he said.”
“Maple wood?!” Dennis exclaimed indignantly. “Maple?!”
“Yes, yes,” Tim said, “Maple.”
“That cannot be correct! It cannot! Who did you speak to?!”
“I’m afraid I cannot tell you,” Tim said apologetically, “we got caught up in discussing the mill before we had exchanged any pleasantries. He did say he was personally involved in the project, if that helps?”
“What?” Dennis couldn’t have looked more insulted if Tim had told him that he thought hinges in the 16th century were made of cheese. “He said he was personally involved? Personally?”
“Yes, yes, personally.”
Tim could almost see Dennis’ widened eyes over the mask.
“I shudder to think that someone involved in the reconstruction would operate under such misconception! Shudder!” Dennis said.
“It is a worrying thought,” Tim said agreeably, “a worrying thought.”
“I must investigate this at once. At once! I apologize, young mister Wayne, but I must leave right away. I apologize, but I must!”
“I understand completely,” Tim told him, “completely. Historical accuracy is so very, very important. Very, very important.”
“Yes, quite right! Quite right! Very, very important! I bid you goodnight, mister Wayne.”
“Goodnight, goodnight, Mr Dennis, Dennis,” Tim said, since he was pretty certain that Dennis wasn’t listening anymore. Instead, the older man was hurrying away, a sheen of sweat on his forehead from the mere anticipation of a confrontation about the maple.
Tim glanced around the room for his co-conspirators. Dick were over by the windows now, talking to a few high society ladies, all of whom looked completely captivated.
Splendid. Operation scandal was a go. Tim estimated that they would have at least one massive marital argument within ten minutes. He also made a mental note not to piss Dick off too much; his knowledge of the dirty secrets of Gotham’s upper crust was terrifying when weaponized.
A man slipped by behind him. Jason, he concluded from the “mission complete” that was whispered in his ear. Tim ambled away towards the dancefloor so he could get a better view of the buffet. At the end of it stood a cluster of men -the palatetologists, easily identified by their wispy moustaches and corduroy suits. Ah corduroy, the fabric of hipsters and men who think their careers never reached past middle management due to “an oversight”. Based on the tenseness in their shoulders and the thin lines of their mouths beneath the wispy moustaches, the smack talkers were having a pretty intense argument. Excellent. Jason’s pick-pocketing skills were still as sharp as ever. Later, he’d have to ask his predecessor what he put in the one with a red bowtie’s dinner that made the man turn puce in disgust as he argued with the one who was wearing pants that were too short. He was pretty sure short-pants were one of the ones who’s food hadn’t been tampered with since his plate was considerably more empty than red bowtie’s.
A collective gasp drew his attention away from the culinary cunts and over to the other side of the ballroom, where Ennis Ryan was dripping onto the floor from the drink his new trophy wife just threw in his face. Someone behind Tim let out a breathy “oh my lord”. He thought it might’ve been Mrs Kraus.
“You pig!” Mrs Trophy-Wife Ryan screeched. She obviously hadn’t seduced him with her creativity. Ennis looked like he couldn’t pick between being surprised or enraged. Mrs Trophy-Wife turned on her unseemly high heels and marched out before he could reach a decision. Ennis glanced around, probably concluded that staying wouldn’t make the situation any less damaging to his reputation, and promptly followed her.
The hall exploded with scandalised whispers before they had even made it out of the door.
Tim’s innate sixth sense twinged with the feeling of being watched. He turned and met Bruce’s gaze head on. Their magnanimous patriarch looked suspicious, but not yet angry. Tim gave him a smile and a shrug and let himself get dragged into a conversation about Mrs Friedman’s grand nephew. A boy of endless potential, apparently. One could marvel that such a genius hadn’t managed to get into a decent college. Over Mrs Friedman’s shoulder he saw Dick shoot him a wink from over by a gathering of W.E. employees.
Phase one: complete.
Phase two: Escalation through Reinforcements
“For the next phase, Dick and I need alibis or else Bruce will make us immediately. So, you and I have to go hang out with whatever ignorami he’s entertaining at the time.”
“I hate being near B at these things. He always deflects everything on me.”
“Which is why we have to end up there ‘accidentally’ and ‘against our will’ or he’ll get suspicious.”
“What about me? I’m guessing I’m doing the deed?”
“Yes. But you won’t be able to do it alone; we need another sibling.”
“Yep. Someone needs to go on a vent safari.”
“What about Cass?”
“She pulled patrol duty.”
“You mean she cheated.”
“Well yeah obviously.”
Tim saw Dick slip back into the ballroom through a side door, which meant that Damian had been located and lovingly coerced into joining the mission. Now, they just had to wait for Dick to purposefully interact with someone who would drag him over to join the cluster of people around Bruce. They called them B-traps; a small subset of Gotham high society who worked as an immediate shortcut to Bruce. Ten minutes ago, Tim had accidentally on purpose ended up near Mrs Zhuk, a woman who lived in a delusional world wherein time talking to Bruce immediately correlated with societal standing. A few years ago she had noticed that bringing one of the Wayne children over to Bruce gifted her with a substantially longer amount of time in his presence, and ever since she had become a high ranking player in the B-trap club. Hence, Tim had now spent roughly nine and half minutes watching Bruce nod along as Mr Fitz, a man who was so determined to keep the presidency of the board of the Natural History Museum away from Mrs Giannotti that he straight up refused to die, prattled on about the new exhibit. It might have been more bearable if he was talking about the actual history, rather than the shipping costs. Or if he actually remembered what the exhibition was about.
Less than two minutes after Dick had re-entered the hall, he appeared at Bruce’s elbow along with Mr Gauthier, who was the target of an ongoing bet among the Wayne kids regarding when he would give in and declare his unfortunate crush on Bruce out loud. Tim took a moment to appreciate Dick’s choice of trap, since Gauthier was a genuine distraction to Bruce, who was already eyeing the balding trader with well-concealed alarm. Tim gave Dick a suffering look for B’s benefit, trying to look as miserable as possible while keeping up a polite façade.
All players were officially in position. Perfect. Tim glanced around the room, feigning disinterest in a way that would make Bruce think he was trying to find an escape route. He couldn’t spot either Jason or Damian, which meant that they were out of Bruce’s line of sight as well. Good. Seeing one of them interacting with someone would raise immediate red flags.
“So what exactly is it that the Demon child and I are supposed to be doing?”
“Well, by this point we should already have caused mayhem on the social level; in the next phase we target the big bads: business and tradition.”
As Mr Fitz stumbled his way through another complaint about tallies in a monotone voice, Damian should be making his way to the back rooms. At this time of night, the true sharks of Gotham’s business world would have emigrated out of the public eye in order to fully embrace their stereotype by talking shop over whisky and Cuban cigars. Jason wouldn’t have been allowed to set foot inside that room, but there were few things more enticing to the self-appointed “Mad Men of Gotham” (Tim would rather get shot in Tanzania. 682.) than trying to get company secrets out of the supposedly naïve son of their monetary overlord.
Damian’s mission was to act the unexperienced son playing at being knowledgeable in company affairs, trying to keep up with the real deal. In the process, he would be dropping a comment about the Dynamo merger; an incredibly secret business deal currently taking place among some of the top companies in the city. Damian, the poor child, would have accidentally outed a multi-million dollar secret to a room full of people who either knew and did not want anyone else to, or didn’t know and were getting screwed over by their friends and business partners.
Jason, meanwhile, was to head over to the east wing.
“You want me to go for the court ladies?!”
“I did say we were going for tradition.”
“I’m pretty sure those women are vampires.”
“Only in a truly emotional sense. Are you saying you won’t do it?”
“Are you kidding? Of course I’ll do it!”
Going for the court would mean making a splash in the deepest pond of the society set. These ladies were neither trophy wives nor women whose husbands got lucky in a business venture. They were old blood Gothamites, wrought from iron and the blood of the unworthy and led by the second most terrifying woman Tim had ever met: Mrs Eleanor Payne. Mrs Payne, who had been widowed longer than most of the Gotham society set had been alive, had a personal vendetta against the Wayne family. In part this was due to Bruce’s unsightly “Brucie” persona, who was an offense to everything Mrs Payne stood for. The rest of it, though, was entirely centred around the fact that when she introduced herself as “Mrs Payne from Gotham”, people always asked “Mrs Wayne, was it?”
As such, no known Wayne child could have exacted this part of the plan. Thank you benevolent Alien gods for the unknown one.
Tim wasn’t sure exactly how Jason planned to offend the old ladies, but he wasn’t worried. The most important part was that he insinuate that he had been invited to this event due to a new outreach program that intended to diversify the invitees to events such as this, spearheaded by the Upper Gotham Women’s Society. UGWS was, in fact, a rival organisation to Mrs Payne’s Gotham’s Women for the Upholding of Traditional Values, previously the Daughters and Wives of Gotham Society. The UGWS had been founded by a crafty business wife who had been denied membership in the GWUTV, the DWGS at the time, and their ranks were filled with all the women that Mrs Eleonor Payne thought were a blight on high society. She once referred to them as “an organisation of ignoble characters, inhabited by women of undesirable nature” completely unprompted during a speech to a children’s charity. The mere idea that they would start shipping in actual low lives to these events, never mind the implication that they would have the clout to succeed, would be enough to set her on the warpath.
Tim really hoped Jason would dust off his dormant Crime Alley dialect. He also made a mental note to hack into the surveillance cameras and get it on tape.
Mr Fitz had now talked himself into a circular argument about… Tim wasn’t actually sure what it was about but it sure was mind-numbingly boring. Mrs Zhuk was making very obvious attempts at catching Bruce’s attention, all of which failed because Bruce was involved in a sort of very slow dance with Mr Gauthier, wherein the later would creep closer while Bruce subtly stepped away. They were well on their way to clear a complete circle around the group. Dick was smiling into his champagne and nodding along to Mr Fitz and Tim was casually pretending to be so involved in the circular monologue that he couldn’t hear Francis Klein trying to get his attention to his left. No plan in the world would be worth listening to Klein talk about stocks for the next thirty minutes.
Bruce had just shuffled past Tim under the pretence of grabbing another flute of champagne from a side table when there was an almighty crash from over by dance floor. The crowd turned as one to see two men, one obviously having just punched the other. Tim would have been tempted to think it was another victim of Dick’s gossip campaign if it wasn’t for the sheer mass of corduroy surrounding the pair.
Apparently, mouth-feel discussions could get pretty violent. Who would’ve thought.
Tim used the distraction to look over at the Screw Screwing Group. They had not yet reached fisticuffs level of ire, but they sure looked angry. He had heard raised voices from that area every now and then for the last 40 minutes.
A frazzled looking woman who Tim thought might be an event coordinator rushed forward to handle the situation. Tim watched as she helped the man off the floor and tried to herd the company of thin moustaches away from the rest of the guests. Suddenly, there was a quiet voice right by his ear:
“Whatever you’re doing, stop it.”
Tim kept outwardly calm, replying in an equally soft tone:
“Not me. Strange things have been happening all evening. I think there might be an outside threat.”
This caught B’s attention. Tim wasn’t stupid enough to think that Bruce bought it entirely, but his suspicion towards his children tended to lose out to his loyalty towards JUSTICE. Before Bruce could demand more information, Dick appeared by them, speaking in a low, hurried voice.
“Jason just clocked someone shifty going into the kitchen. He’s investigating, requests back-up.”
Tim could almost hear Bruce grinding his teeth.
“Fine,” Bruce said, “both of you go. But if you’re up to something I will bench you indefinitely.”
That might work if any of the obedient ones actually lived at home, but there was only Damian in the manor these days and whenever Bruce tried to bench him, he ran away to Blüdhaven. Tough break, B.
Tim and Dick excused themselves and hurried away towards the kitchen. If Jason had texted Dick, that meant that phase two was officially handled and it was time to bring out the big guns.
Phase three: Go out with a Bang!
“So we play puppet-masters with the cliques. Then what?”
“I’m glad you asked, Dick. After phase two all we have to do is make a big enough fuss to get them to close early.”
“Why don’t we just do that immediately?”
“Because we want to show B that we can cause a lot of damage without being noticed just by being at these things.”
“Yeah, but if we do it right away we can go home.”
“Jason, do you not want to fuck with rich people?”
“…no, yeah, okay we’re doing this.”
“So what kind of fuss are we causing?”
“I don’t know. Jason, this is your area of expertise. Well, yours and Damian’s but he’s not here right now.”
“We could call in a bomb threat?”
“Ok, then we get paintball guns and go to town.”
“No, wait! That’s actually a good idea!”
“Really Dick? You don’t think people are going to ask questions if the Waynes start literally hunting socialites for sport?”
“No, not that. The paint thing. We can put it in the sprinkler system, pull the alarm, and then make it all out to be an anti-fur animal rights protest.”
“Re-inventing the old pulling the fire-alarm strategy, huh? You know, I’m actually impressed Dickie.”
“And how do you feel about that?”
“Well, Timberly, I don’t care for it.”
“You guys are the worst. I wish Damian were here.”
“Whatever. We’re going with Dick’s sprinkler idea. It’ll help get Damian on board too, since we’ll raise awareness for animal rights.”
“So who finds the brat?”
“We don’t have time for stupid questions, Jason. Campbell is heading this way and I cannot take another conversation about his golf handicap.”
Tim and Dick managed to slip away through a combination of vigilante techniques and blatant lies and snuck into an unused corridor near the kitchens. Jason was already there when they arrived and Tim thought he looked a little pit-mad, but that might just be left over adrenaline from fulfilling his childhood dream of insulting Mrs Payne.
“Where are we at?” Tim asked, while he pulled out his phone to check the time. 21:47. Good.
“The court ladies are enraged,” Jason reported gleefully, “they’re filing a police report. Oh, and one of them suggested calling the national guard and no one in the group actually said no.”
Huh. Looked like Tim would be able to enjoy the fallout from tonight for a full week, at least. The Sunday paper would be one for the scrapbook.
“What about Damian?” Dick queried. Jason leaned back against the wall.
“He set off the business drones a while ago. The fallout should hit the stock market by tomorrow.”
Hm. Maybe two weeks.
“He outed the Dynamo deal?” Tim asked.
“And something about the new FDA guidelines that hasn’t been made public yet.” Jason added.
“Oh that,” Tim said, “that was a good move. That should hit the ones who weren’t affected by Dynamo.”
“Apparently.” Jason shrugged. “Anyway, the little brat is accessing the sprinkler system as we speak. We just need to get the paint over there.”
“Well, that’s our job.” Dick turned to Tim. “Do we have the paint?”
“Yeah,” Tim replied, “The Titans got it to Gotham and Steph left it be the west entrance a few minutes ago.” Dick gave him a dubious look.
“You called the Teen Titans for this?”
“No. I texted them. We needed a lot of paint.”
“So,” Jason said impatiently, “Dick and I get the paint to the lil’ demon.”
“Yes. The way there should be cleared out, especially with all the drama going on. Make sure to send Dick ahead to scout, though.”
“Ok,” Dick said, looking at his watch, “we get everything ready by 22:30. Then it’s your turn.”
“Great. I’ll hack into their system and schedule a message to be shown on all screens at 22:30. Their fire alarm is old-school though so someone has to pull it.”
“I’ll do it,” Jason said, grinning.
Tim felt like they were probably working their way through Jason’s childhood bucket list right now, and he was weirdly okay with that.
“Good,” Dick said absently. He gave Tim a pointed look. “So what about Bruce?”
Tim pursed his lips. That was the most unstable part of this plan.
“I’ll handle Bruce.”
Jason and Dick exchanged a dubious look. Which, rude.
“You sure you can handle B on your own?” Jason asked.
“Or go down trying,” Tim replied.
The three of them contemplated that for a moment.
“Well, if you’re sure,” Dick said finally, “let’s get going.”
There was only one way that Bruce, already suspicious, wouldn’t notice that three of his sons were missing. Jason and Damian maybe, but not Dick. He was too noticeable to be lost in the crowd.
So, the only real strategy would be to distract Bruce to the point where he didn’t look for them. Tim had already texted their noble patriarch to tell him that the suspicious activity was handled and it wasn’t a major threat. Now all he had to do was live up to his reputation as the boy who can lie to Batman.
Actually, Dick had done him a favour in this regard. There were a total number of 14 people in Gotham society who could throw Bruce off his game, and one of them was already doing the personal space tango with B over by the buffet. In Tim’s experience, Bruce needed at least four of these people to keep him occupied, so Tim was going for five. Mr Gauthier was already in place, which left Tim with the unenviable position of getting another four to go bother Bruce.
He entered the ballroom, quickly scanning the crowd for one of the legendary 14, and was immediately accosted by Mrs Sanderson who he did not have time for right now. As she talked at length about how big he’d gotten (he saw her last week), he spotted Mr Tobias Engel, who was definitely living up to his name today.
Tim excused himself, pretending that he needed to use the bathroom, and quickly swerved around some guests to get to Engel.
“Mister Engel!” He greeted.
“Yes?” Engel was an older man, gangly and white of hair, and sported a rather impressive moustache. He was also unusually sharp and interesting for someone who was part of this crowd, which is why all the Waynes took any chance to talk to him during these parties. An interesting conversation was hard currency in here, to the point where Dick had once physically swept Tim’s legs out from under him to get to Engel first.
“Timothy Wayne.” Tim introduced himself.
“Yes, I’m quite aware.” Engel told him with a hint of amusement.
“Ah, you never know with these masks,” said Tim, “I am glad to have caught you before you left. I actually had a favour to ask.” Normally Tim would spend some more time on pleasantries, but time was of the essence here.
“Last time we spoke you told me about the suggested reform for the Gotham school system. I was intrigued, so I mentioned it to my father.” Tim said. This was actually true. “He was interested, but I’m afraid I couldn’t do the proposal justice.” This wasn’t true. “And I was wondering if you could speak to him? I would love for him to back the project, but…” he trailed off, making a face to convey that certain parents take the words of other adults much more seriously than that of their children. Engel made a thoughtful noise.
“Well, I can certainly have a word with Mister Wayne. Is he around?” Engel glanced around.
Tim helpfully pointed Bruce out and sent Engel on his way, safe in the knowledge that Engel wouldn’t tell B that Tim had sent him; the man was smart enough to read the subtext of Tim’s query. Not smart enough to know the cause for it though.
Tim swiftly made his way through the throng, rebuffing various attempt to pull him into a conversation, until he spotted-
Miss Leila Auclair. Auclair was one of those daughters of powerful men who had somehow held onto the vapidness and incredible confidence their teenage years well into their twenties. She had decided that Bruce Wayne was the grand knight of her fairy tale at 21 and pursued him with enough fervour to warrant a restraining order, though none had been filed, which Tim was thankful for currently. She was surrounded, as per usual, by a gaggle of women her age who were essentially interchangeable with one another.
“Ladies,” Tim said smoothly as he stepped up to them. The gaggle turned to him like a single being, smiling and greeting him with over-the-top enthusiasm. A Wayne tended to have that effect.
“Are you having a nice evening, Mister Wayne?” One of them asked. Tim thought she might be the daughter of Ernest Lewis, a business partner of Wayne Enterprises.
“I am now,” he said cheekily, practicing everything Dick had thought him over the years, “though I must say you are all being very greedy, keeping your lovely company to yourselves. Lord knows my father could use some of it. He hasn’t as much as seen a charming young lady all night. I think he might consider dating Mister Fitz if he is left alone much longer.”
And that’s all it took for Leila to immediately leave the group. She really wasn’t all that bright.
Tim extracted himself from the girl-gaggle as quickly as possible, under heavy protests. He promised to return, a bald-faced lie, and walked away very quickly.
So, only two more to go. So far, Bruce seemed too occupied juggling Gauthier and Engel to notice something was amiss, and Tim had already planned who to use as number four. Stepping quietly between the backs of two men who both smelled like sweaty shrimp he spotted a golden opportunity if ever there was one.
Francis Klein and George Campbell. It was as two for one combo.
Tim felt almost elated as he approached them, a feeling he was certain none of them had ever elicited in another human being before.
“Mister Klein, Mister Campbell,” he greeted, smiling politely.
“Mister Wayne,” they chorused back.
“We were just discussing how the golf club’s finances have taken a hit recently, due to the new parking restrictions.”
Oh. Economics and golf combined. So that’s what they were talking about. Tim had assumed they were both just monologuing at each other about numbers and golf respectively in a sort of awkward facsimile of an actual conversation.
“Fascinating,” he lied with gusto, “actually, Mister Klein, I came to find you because my father was asking about the quarterly reports. Would you mind speaking to him about it?”
Klein straightened, as if the sudden sense of importance had given him a purpose that his life had previously lacked. Which, maybe it had.
“Well, then I must go speak to him at once!” Klein exclaimed, already peering around for any sign of Bruce.
“That would be splendid,” Tim said, “he is over by the bar… probably talking about his golf game.”
And that’s four. Tim watched as Klein and Campbell hurried away, both almost buzzing at the prospect of discussing their favourite subject. He was pretty certain that neither of them would stop to explain who sent them; they really weren’t those kinds of people.
Strictly speaking he had already succeeded with his mission, but Tim had already had number four planned and, frankly, he didn’t want to give it up. So he went hunting. A quick look at his phone told him that the time was 22:21, and he had nine long minutes to set another dog loose on B.
Was he enjoying this a bit too much?
He swerved right when old Nancy Simmons, renowned bigot, tried to physically catch his arm and drag him into her group. Tim would rather be alone in space eating those disgusting dried army food packs Bruce bought for long missions than talk to her. 683.
No, he was enjoying this the appropriate amount.
He finally spotted his target at 22:24, holding court in the way that only Mrs Payne could. She was surrounded by a crowd of scandalised women and a few incensed men. All of whom probably owned a monocle. For tax purposes, or something.
Tim stepped straight into the lion’s den and sent his best thousand watt smile at Mrs Payne.
“Mrs Payne!” He kept smiling as Mrs Payne fixed him with a withering, hateful stare. “I heard there had been some issues with an invitee from the Upper Gotham Women’s Society.” Mrs Payne opened her mouth, doubtless to lecture him for his rude behaviour, but Tim was on a deadline and he did not have the time. “I just wanted to offer my condolences. I know that my adoptive father backed the project, and I am appalled to hear that it caused any sort of offence.”
Mrs Payne froze. Her eyes were doing some sort of mad dance as she processed the reality of her two greatest enemies joining forces to let riff raff into her high society events. After a moment that lasted an eternity she spoke, in a measured voice:
“Thank you, Mister Drake.”
She had always liked the Drakes. Their name was entirely dissimilar from Payne. As such, she tended to refer to Tim as one or the other depending on her current opinion of him. She was unnaturally calm as she turned to the group, asked them all to please excuse her, and stalked off in Bruce’s direction.
Tim snuck out of the group, grabbed a glass of champagne from a passing waiter and ambled towards the exit, set on finding a good vantage point to watch Bruce get Splatooned.
He spotted a familiar group on the way, who were huddled together and having a very heated debate. He distinctly heard Dennis exclaim “completely unacceptable!” from within the herd.
“Completely!” Tim echoed merrily as he passed them.
He spotted his brothers sidling in through a side door across the room and raised his glass at them. They waved cheerily. Well, Dick and Jason did. He was pretty sure Damian rolled his eyes beneath the mask.
They spent the countdown watching Bruce try to get away from his admirers while getting completely eviscerated by Mrs Payne. At 22:28, B finally pieced it together and looked over at his brood with the icy eyes he usually reserved for when he wore the cowl.
Still, that was too little too late. At 22:30 on the dot, Jason pulled the fire alarm and every sprinkler in the room went off, dousing the finely dressed guests in neon paint, as the message “fur is murder!” flashed from every screen. There would probably be a few guests who wouldn’t get caught in the mayhem, since they had limited the colour spectacle to the main hall ballroom, but in all almost every member of the Gotham Society Set would be washing neon pink, purple, and yellow out of their hair for a week.
As a spray of neon rained down them, Tim, Dick, Jason, and Damian watched Mrs Payne lose her shit for the first time and It. Was. Glorious.
“Do you think he’ll still make us come next year?!” Dick yelled over the blaring alarm while Jason was catching colour in his hands and rubbing it on Damian’s head. Tim laughed.
“And give us one year to plan?!” He replied, jumping out of the way when Damian tackled Jason to the floor. “No way!”
“Uh, guys?!” Jason said from where he had Damian pinned to the floor. “Incoming!”
They looked up to see Bruce marching their way. Tim could almost see the cloak billowing around him.
“I have a safe house in Brazil!” Jason shouted over the cacophony of noise. It was an unusual show of empathy on his part, and really, who were they to argue? After all, when Batman comes for you there’s really only one thing to do.